It’s the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, and I have spent a chunk of time wrapping presents, which I’ve been collecting for months, in red paper with green polka dots. I also went next door to give my neighbors’ puppy, Penny, the candy cane squeaky toy I scooped up for her in early November. (Penny obliged me by racing around joyfully with the toy in her mouth—running, leaping, squeaking.) Christmas time is here; Chanukah time is here; and I love it all.
I was not raised with Christmas in my Jewish home. However, I was raised with Christmas all around me. My small town was predominantly Protestant, and it wasn’t easy to grow up there feeling left out of the holiday’s festivities. I asked for a Christmas tree and was denied. I knew a tree wasn’t really mine to have, but I wanted one anyway.
Somewhere along the way in my early adulthood, I began to realize that though I don’t technically observe Christmas, I can participate in it in ways that are true to my beliefs. I don’t have a tree, but nothing says I can’t gather with friends to drink eggnog and help decorate theirs. On a more spiritual level, “Christmas giving” and the spirit of tzedakah feel very similar to me. In fact, my favorite Christmases as a child were when my family went to volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas day.